IIFYM, acronym for ‘If It Fits Your Macro’s’, is a trending simplified diet format that has increased in popularity recently. Any why wouldn’t it? A concept that says as long as you meet your daily calorie, fat, protein, carbohydrate and fiber goals, it doesn’t matter what you eat. This core foundation allows consumers to fit their favorite ‘unhealthy’ foods into a weight loss plan. Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts have been the group most attracted to this ideal, and understandably so. After years of broccoli, brown rice and chicken breast every meal, this group of fitness enthusiasts were more than happy to replace their broccoli and brown rice for Cinnamon Toast Crunch and an Eggo.
I will start by saying there are some very real benefits of the IIFYM concept. Most importantly it helps teach people that weight loss doesn’t have to mean eating bland foods or following a strict regimented diet. It simplifies it to the realization that weight loss is nothing more than consuming fewer calories than your body needs. This is a fundamental stepping-stone I work with my clients to understand. Many people have predetermined notions of what starting a diet means, most of which are incorrect.
The other lesson IIFYM diet teaches is moderation. Instead of the traditional ‘restrict yourself until you finally cave then binge plan’, IIFYM teaches you things like pizza or ice cream in moderation don’t have to ruin a diet. As long as you account for what you are consuming and you meet your daily goals, weight loss will happen.
The portion of IIFYM that nutrition professionals struggle with is nutrition status. While this plan does well to account for the macronutrients and fiber, it does not take into account micronutrients and most importantly, the concepts of functional nutrition. A simplified description of functional nutrition is the relationship between nutrients, the environment, and the genetics of an individual. Everyday the list of functional foods known to contain vital vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other bioactive substances, grows and becomes better understood. Since the completion of the human genome project, the area of nutritional genomics and epigenetics has identified nutrients that have a direct effect on the expression of genes that cause or prevent inflammation, metabolic disorders, cancers, and other chronic disease. What does that mean for us? Well first off it means we have a lot to learn. Most importantly to this article, it means the correct foods are more important than previously thought. Herein lies the problem with IIFYM. While it is a great introductory method for weight loss, it does nothing to educate people about the importance of the food they eat. It treats food as simply energy, when in fact it is so much more. Bodybuilders would be intrigued to know that while brown rice and broccoli aren’t as appealing as a portion of ice cream after a workout, the contents of the first choice are known to have a positive impact on liver enzyme production, cholesterol, blood glucose, elimination of carcinogens, and antioxidant properties, not to mention the vitamin, mineral and electrolyte content. There is so much more to food than just energy and fiber, and I want to make sure everyone knows that.
I personally use IIFYM. When I am at a special social gathering or visiting family for theholidays I use the concepts to target my macros without focus on the functional nutrition of the foods I am eating. This concept has allowed me to become less restrictive. A couple chicken wings or some pizza with friends no longer mentally strains me. That being said, it is not my daily practice. Ultimately it is vital that vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and lean meats make it into your diet most of the time.
As usual I talked (or typed) too much. This article, and my point, can be summed up in far less words: use IIFYM as a piece of your adaptable healthy lifestyle plan to help you achieve the goals of BALANCE, MODERATION, and VARIETY.
Until Next Time!